“NYC Cyber Command regularly explores and advances proactive measures to keep New Yorkers’ data safe. As part of these ongoing efforts, NYC Cyber Command determined that the TikTok application posed a security threat to the city’s technical networks and directed its removal from city-owned devices.”
Background: New York City is relatively late to the game. More than 30 states have barred employees from using TikTok on government devices, including the state of New York, which
quietly adopted the policy in 2020.
The federal government also passed a law banning TikTok from government devices in December 2022. New York City’s directive said that it was being implemented to align with that federal policy.
Some policymakers want to go farther, banning TikTok for everyone, even on personal phones.
Montana passed a law in May
to fully ban the app, but that’s getting challenged in court
on free speech grounds. And bills to
fully ban TikTok in the United States, and an effort to pressure TikTok’s owner ByteDance to sell it, have seen some level of bipartisan support in Congress. However those efforts seem to have stalled
over legal concerns.
Issues: Critics say ByteDance is beholden to the Chinese government and could be used to spy on government employees, let alone residents of the country as a whole. The company itself
has admitted that a couple employees tried to get the user data of two specific U.S. journalists.
But some people opposed to the bans, like Yale Law research scholar Yangyang Cheng, say that American companies are
already collecting incredible amounts of user data, and that the recent uproar is playing on anti-Communist fears of China.
Impact: Adams has been consistently critical of the promotion of crime on the wildly popular app.
“I strongly believe that TikTok is a ticking bomb when it continues to use and exploit inner city conflicts to promote violence,” he said at a May announcement. “When you have millions of views, young people are listening and watching the views and there’s a duplication of the behavior that is spreading like a cancer throughout our communities.”
But the administration didn’t shun the app until now. The mayor’s office
had its own page, sharing videos of Adams jumping rope at a block party or voting on primary day. Agencies like the NYPD, FDNY and the Parks Department also have pages they use to promote their work.
The directive states that employees will have to remove TikTok from any city-owned devices within 30 days and that downloading the app and using it on city-owned networks will be prohibited.
No agency gets a blanket exemption, Allon said, but specific requests for government employees to use TikTok can be made “for public health and law enforcement investigations.”
The mayor’s office, however, has cut itself off. The @NYCMayor page has a new bio: “This account was operated by NYC until August 2023. It’s no longer monitored.”